Monday, November 17, 2008

31 Things to do before Christmas - A Christmas Story

(This is #31 of 31 in the 31 Things to do series)

The best for last: A Christmas Story

In all of the mayhem, the to-do's, shopping, celebrations, lest we forget what the Christmas Season is really all about, take time to reflect on the real Reason for the Season -- Jesus Christ. I know some people don't believe in Christ, maybe even some of you reading this now, but I make no apologies for my belief, for I am not ashamed.

There is a really good story over at that I like to read around this time of the year... It's entitled "A Christmas Story". If you believe, you may find this story to be as inspiring as I do.

But even if you don't believe and you are still reading this post, I hope that we all find something to be joyous about this Christmas. And really we don't have to look very far. If you are even able to read a blog, you are blessed.

Even if you don't have two nickels to rub together, remember that Christmas is a time to spend time with those we care about. The gift of time and love is free, yet priceless.

I don't know what your finances look like this year. But no matter what you have gained or lost this year in terms of finances, material things, health, relationships, there are some things that we have been given in life that cannot be taken away.... but we can choose to give them up. We can choose to give up our joy, peace, salvation. But these are free gifts which we have been given, we need only to claim them.

So keep in mind that whatever you do and whatever you have this season, you can still have joy, peace and salvation, and that is priceless.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

31 Things to do before Christmas - Holiday Cooking, part 2

(This is #30 of 31 in the 31 Things to do series)

Holiday Cooking, part 2

If you have spread your Christmas cooking into at least a couple days, today should be relatively easy. You may even be able to do this part on Christmas morning, which is what I do to make sure everything is good and fresh for dinner.

By now your meats and main dishes should be done or almost done. You may only need to put them in the oven to warm or finish up. You can put any side dishes which won't take too long to cook like corn, green beans and rices on early in the morning.
Dinner rolls and salads can be prepared right before meal time in minutes.

Most of the hard work should be done on day one, making today a breeze.

Monday, November 10, 2008

31 Things to do before Christmas - Holiday Cooking, part 1

(This is #29 of 31 in the 31 Things to do series)

Holiday Cooking, part 1

Just like in the case of the Christmas cards, you can and should break your Christmas cooking down into smaller sessions to make it more manageable and less overwhelming. You can do this over a period of two or three days, or even a week. I have a friend who finishes all of her cooking the week before the holiday for Thanksgiving and Christmas and then freezes it. By the way this is the same friend who is done with her Christmas shopping in October…. Gotta love her.

In a nutshell, there a couple different approaches you can use to getting your cooking for the big holiday feast done:

Method 1: Spend a day doing prep work like cutting vegetables, cleaning and preparing meats for cooking. And then spend a day or two cooking everything.

Method 2: Cook different dishes on different days. Day 1 can be spent on desserts and meats. Day 2 can be spent on side dishes and finishing touches.

Actually there are a few more…..

Method 3: Let Publix or some other deli or restaurant do your meal for you. But this is not the way to go if you are short on funds.

Method 4: If you are having guests over, share in the cooking duties and have everyone bring a dish.

Method 5: Do a combination of the above. This is my approach. I get a lot of help from others in my meal preparation. It cuts down on the work for one person, while not draining my pocketbook.

31 Things to do before Christmas – Enjoy the traditions

(This is #28 of 31 in the 31 Things to do series)

Take time for Traditions

Make sure you spend some time just enjoying the season and the traditions that go along with it. Some people really believe "It's the most wonderful time of the year" and they act as such. But for some of us it can become drudgery with all of the busy-ness, too much to do, a lot of wants and needs but not enough money.

I can tell you, some people are definitely dreading Christmas this year. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, nest eggs and homes this year. It's definitely going to be a slim Christmas for many people. But even when money is tight, thankfully we still have a lot to be thankful for and there is plenty to celebrate and enjoy during the holidays. And whether you are blessed with abundance or not this Christmas, I hope you and yours will take the time to enjoy some of the traditional holiday activities this season which money can't buy.

Here are some Christmas-y things you should do this year to get and keep you in the holiday spirit:
  1. Bake Christmas cookies

  2. Build a fire and have hot chocolate

  3. Sing Christmas carols

  4. Watch Christmas movies

  5. Go see Christmas lights on Christmas Eve

  6. Spend lots of quality time with love ones!

31 Things to do before Christmas – Time to play the "Santa" role

(This is #27 of 31 in the 31 Things to do series)

Time to play the "Santa" role

Deliver gifts early to the people you won't see on Christmas Day. I suggest you do this even before Christmas Eve. Most people already have enough to do on Christmas Eve and don't have time to spend making a lot of visits.

So it's a good idea to deliver gifts either a week before Christmas, or even sooner if possible, once you get everything wrapped.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

31 Things to do before Christmas – Stocking stuffing

(This is #26 of 31 in the 31 Things to do series)

Stuff, stuff and more stuff

Okay, I know I've said it before, but this really IS one of my favorite things to do at Christmas time. Stocking stuffers. It's just so much fun to fill up a stocking with a lot of little things that you really know will be used and appreciated. And the excitement of digging through a stocking and finding all the little treasures brings a smile to just about anyone's face.

The stocking

I've seen Christmas stockings cost from anywhere between free to $10 or more. I bought nice stockings for my family one year and told them to save them, keep them nice and return them to me to get them refilled for next year. That may sound harsh or cheap but I see no reason to keep buying a new one every year. If you do buy them, you can pick them up at the dollar store for a dollar.

The stuffings

Stocking stuffers are so easy, probably the easiest shopping you can do for anyone. Just get a bunch of little things that you know that person likes or uses. Here's a list of items I've stuffed in Christmas stockings and other common items that don't cost much money.

  1. Gum and Candy - Candy canes, small chocolates, candy bars, bubble gum.

  2. Lotions - small, travel sized. You can even use those that you get from hotel stays.

  3. Lip gloss or ChapStik

  4. Nail clippers

  5. A Pair of socks

  6. Small container of hand sanitizer

  7. Small pack of tissues

  8. Nail polish

  9. Body spray

  10. A ball or other small dollar toy for kids

  11. Pencils or pens

  12. Barrettes

  13. Comb and/or brush

  14. Inexpensive fashion jewelry

  15. Knit gloves or caps (you can get these for about $1 each)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

31 Things to do before Christmas - It's a Wrap

(This is #25 of 31 in the 31 Things to do series)

It's a Wrap

After you've gotten all of your Christmas shopping done (smile), here's the fun part.... gift wrapping.

You've stuck to your budget on the gifts, don't blow it on gift wrap. Spending five bucks on a gift back is ludicrous. Really, if you are really creative you don't have to spend anything on gift wrap. But if you have planned ahead and caught the after-Christmas sales in previous years, you probably have tons of gift wrap that you bought for pennies on the dollar, ready to go.

Here are some creative (or not so creative but cheap at least) ideas I have used for gift wrap:

  1. Old calendars. A lot of places give out large calendars with poster size sheets. These are decorative and pretty intresting and can be used to wrap smaller gifts.

  2. Comic pages from your Sunday paper.

  3. Re-use gift bags and gift wrap from gifts you have received. As long as it's in good shape, it can be reused. Just try not to give it back to the same person who gave it to you! The tags on the gift bag is usually folded in half. Cut off the half that is written on and use the other half. Bonus - this is recycling.

  4. When you buy glass items at a lot of stores, they will wrap your merchandise in paper to protect the merchandise from breakage. Some of these papers are very attractive and can be used for gift wrap. I asked a clerk if I could have a few extra on one occasion, and she gave me several extra, free of charge.

  5. Colored tissue paper that has nice designs can sometimes be used for gift wrap as well.

  6. This is another tip for after Christmas. When you go to the after Christmas sales, stock up on the marked down gift wraps and bags that have designs which can be used through out the year. I try to stock up on plain colored papers and bags, lots of reds, golds, greens and silvers. These can be used for weddings, Valentine's day, birthdays and other occasions.

Friday, November 7, 2008

31 Things to do before Christmas – Christmas clean

(This is #24 of 31 in the 31 Things to do series)

Christmas Clean

This probably goes without saying, but don't wait until Christmas Eve to get your house "guest ready". Start doing a little each day from now until Christmas and you won't burn yourself out and make a stressful situation. My husband and I have a running joke that if we want to clean our house and get any projects done that we have putting off, just invite guests over. That way we are sure to get things done, and in a hurry!

If you wait until the last minute to do things, you will be so tired and stressed that you won't even enjoy your guests or the occasion.

Again, I have to give it up for the Flylady and her tips on doing a little bit at a time. It is good advice.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

31 Things to do before Christmas – Cheap Classic Christmas Fun

(This is #23 of 31 in the 31 Things to do series)

Classic Christmas Fun

What Christmas would be complete without good clean Christmas movies. Whether you enjoy the classics or some of the more recent movies, a good, clean humorous Christmas movie will definitely help you get in the Christmas spirit. Also, it's cheap entertainment. Many of these movies can be checked out from the library. If they are not available there, you could get them at Blockbuster in the "Family Favorite" sections, which you can rent cheaper than the new releases.

Here are a few Christmas movies that you may want to check out, there are many more out there, just do an internet search on "Christmas movies" or "classic Christmas movies". Pop up some microwave popcorn (about a dollar), rent a movie (anywhere from free to $3), light a fire, turn on your Christmas lights! Sweet!!!

  • A Christmas Carol
  • A Christmas Story
  • It's a Wonderful Life
  • The Preacher's Wife
  • The Santa Clause
  • White Christmas
  • The Christmas Story
  • Home Alone
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • The Polar Express

Saturday, November 1, 2008

31 Things to do before Christmas - Holiday Grocery shopping

(This is #22 of 31 in the 31 Things to do series)

Holiday Grocery Shopping

After you have planned your menu, you can (and should), once again, make a list, before going to the grocery store. In fact you should always shop with a grocery list for a number of reasons. Number one, if you are forgetful like me, your list is your friend and will save you many trips back and forth to the store. Number two, your list will save you money because you will know what you need and only buy what you need, instead of buying things "just in case", because you couldn't remember if you have it at home already or not. Been there and done that, many times.

Also, DO shop early.... At Christmas time, people are so busy shopping for gifts that they save the grocery shopping for the very last minute. Seriously, I have noticed that since the grocery stores are typically the last thing open on Christmas Eve, everybody knows that so what do they do? They do their last minute shopping for gifts on Christmas Eve until about 6:00pm when most of the malls and retailers close up shop. Then that same crowd rushes the grocery stores, everybody all at once looking for the same things. It's really kind of funny and predictable. So since it is so predictable, it is easily avoidable.

I have made the mistake of putting the grocery shopping off too. I'm a Publix shopper, and I have about three near my house, so I should have been smart and spread the trips out to all of the stores. But one of them is like right around the corner from my house, so of course it's my favorite. But you know it's bad when the grocery store manager knows your face and can remember how many times you've been to the store.

Well I remember one year I kept making trips to the store the whole week before Christmas, because of my lack of making a proper list I admit. And you would think after about three trips to the store that week that I had everything I needed for my Christmas dinner. Well when I showed back up at that store one more time on Christmas Eve in the middle of that rush, I guess it was just too much for the grocery store manager to take. I tried to hurry down the aisles before he saw me, but I got caught red-handed. He said "I know YOUare not here in this crowd today!" All I could do was smile, because he was so right. That was a shame for me to even put myself in that situation. But it was all because I didn't plan it right.

So this year, I will not do that again. And if I do I'm safe because that manager has moved to a different store.